If you’re making or producing music on a computer a MIDI controller will become one of your most important tools. Even if you’re recording live instruments the process is streamlined and enhanced with a plethora of functions literally at your fingertips.
With so many MIDI controllers available though it can be hard to pick the one that’s best for you. So we’ve collected what we think are the 5 of the best MIDI controllers on the market in this list.
Click on each devices title to go straight to their store page for more info and buying options.
Akai undoubtedly produce some of the best affordable music tech out there and their APC series is top of the barrel for affordable music production tools. The APC series will work with most DAWs but is at it’s best when used with Ableton for it’s intuitively matched design.
There are 3 different primary controllers in the series, each unique and brilliant. My personal favourite is the incredibly affordable but powerful APC Key 25, with a range of functions so deep you can record entire tracks just using the controller.
All controllers in the APC series come with Ableton Live Lite and some other free software goodies. They will all work with Windows XP and higher or Mac OS X 10.5 and higher.
APC40 MKII (£264 / $299)
Unlock the true potential of Ableton Live with APC40 MKII, only from Akai Professional. Combining deep control over Live with an enormous library of hand-selected sound content & virtual instruments, APC40 MKII puts endless creative capability at your fingertips.
APC Key 25 (£59 / $129)
APC Key 25 puts all the controls you need for live or studio creation right in front of you. Compose and perform with the best combination of rhythmic and melodic hardware.
APC Mini (£59 / $99)
Deft, agile, and powerful, the only thing “mini” about this Ableton controller is the size. APC Mini offers a comprehensive performance toolkit in a compact, gig-ready design.
OhmRGB is an interactive MIDI instrument, designed to give you hands on controls for music/visual performance and production. High-quality faders, knobs, buttons, and RGB LEDs provide the interface for creative expression, whether you’re mixing samples and synths of DJ’ing a cutting-edge set.
OhmRGB looks gorgeous with it’s handmade mahogany end caps and provides brilliant levels of quality and control.
There is also a “Slim” version of OhmRGB which retains all the functionality of the original but fits it into a smaller and lighter package for added portability.
OhmRGB will “simply work with any software that supports MIDI”. Templates are available for certain production software here.
If you’re looking for keyboard controllers that you can use in the studio, on-stage, or anywhere you feel inspired, look no further than the A-300PRO. Combining the best of Roland engineering with Cakewalk‘s legendary ease-of-use, the A-300PRO has the features and feel you need to get the most out of your music performances and productions.
Roland are famous for their high quality keyboards so when they integrate MIDI controls into one of them you want to take note. The A-300PRO features 45 assignable controls, 8 dynamic pads for finger drumming and MIDI triggering.
Roland claim it can work with any DAW on PC or Mac and supports Windows 7 and higher or Mac OS X Snow Leopard and higher.
Novation’s Launch series has a great range of products so there’s something for everyone. There are 3 Launchpad MPCs (4 if you count the Launchpad app), 2 Launch control controllers, and 4 Launchkey controller/keyboards.
As with Akai’s APC series, Novation’s Launch devices come with Ableton Live Lite and will work instantly using Ableton software. Launch devices work with Windows 7 and higher or Mac OS X 10 and higher.
Launchpad (£74+ / $99+)
Novation’s Launchpads are dynamic, grid based instruments. With them you can launch clips, play drum racks and control your mixer utilising the impressive lighting of the pads and controls.
Launchpad is available as Launchpad Pro, Launchpad, and Launchpad Mini or as an app for iOS.
Launch Control (£49+ / $69+)
Novation’s two Launch Control controllers give you a massive amount of control over your productions and performances with 24 or 16 knobs to use, sliders on the XL, and various functionality buttons.
Launch Control comes in a standard and XL version.
Launchkey (£74 / $99)
Novation’s Launchkeys are more hybrids of keyboards and MIDI controllers. They come in 25, 49, and 61-note versions of the velocity sensitive keyboard with mod and pitch wheels. There are 16 pads for control and drumming, 8 knobs to shape sounds and effects, and 9 precise faders for smooth volume adjustment.
There is also a Launchkey mini which has 25 notes and strips some (but certainly not all) of the controls for a portable, smaller package.
Arturia’s MiniLab USB Controller combines the hands-on control you love with the portability you need to take your studio wherever you go. MiniLab offers one of the most feature packed, compact control systems on the market.
There are 8 MIDI Preset pads (save up to 16 presets with), pitch and mod wheels, and buttons for octave settings and controlling pad presets. There are also 4 sets of 4 knobs (16 total) all on top of 25 velocity-sensitive keys that provides great playability and editing functions. MiniLab includes Analog Lab and a massive library of 5000 synth sounds.
Arturia’s MiniLab is compatible with Windows 7 and higher or Mac 10.8 and higher.
Once you have your MIDI controller and got it up and running why not check out our Top Ten Free DAWs list for a guide on free programs you can use to produce your music.
And here’s our Top Ten VST Plugins series to get you started with some free tools:
10 Weird and Wonderful Free VST Plugins
10 of the Best Free VST Synth Plugins
10 of the Top Free Drum VST Plugins
Top 10 Piano & Organ VST Plugins + Bonus Bundle